With last month's announcement of its plans to acquire Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems, Harris immediately transformed its status in the North America public-safety-communications sector from a nascent manufacturer waiting to sell its first multiband handset to the industry's second-largest player.

By agreeing to pay $675 million for the Tyco LMR unit formerly known as M/A-COM, Harris bought an infrastructure manufacturer that trails only market leader Motorola in North America deployments. Although Harris is new to the public-safety market — its multiband Unity portable radio is expected to commercially available later this year — the company has a lengthy history of providing mission-critical communications solutions to entities like the FAA and the military.

Harris officials believe this background will translate well into the public-safety arena.

"We really do have a lot of technology that we are maturing and developing for the military battlefield that we see as very applicable to this market," said Kevin Kane, director of sales and business development for the Harris RF Communications division. "In some ways, we almost see a convergence of some of the requirements that exist, in terms of reliability."

After the deal closes — expected by the end of June — the Tyco LMR business will operate as a business unit under the Harris RF Communication division headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., but a name for the unit has not been determined, Kane said. Chuck Dougherty will continue as president of the unit and will report to Dana Mehnert, president of Harris RF Communications.

There is almost no overlap between the Harris and Tyco businesses, so no significant regulatory issues are anticipated. In terms of the Tyco LMR unit's headquarters in Lowell, Mass., Kane said, "We don't anticipate any major changes of substance in any way — this is a very mature and established business."

Kane said the multiband capability in the Unity radio is "just the beginning" of the technological advances that Harris hopes to bring to public safety, noting noise-cancellation features that are designed to allay firefighters' concerns about operating digital radios in a fireground environment. Meanwhile, the newly combined company is well-positioned to combine the research each has conducted regarding software-defined radio, said John Vaughan, senior vice president and CTO of Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems.

"Add the two together, and you can get something quite positive," he said.

Mobile wireless consultant Andrew Seybold echoed this sentiment, expressing his belief that the new combination under the Harris name is "going to give Motorola fits." In particular, Seybold noted that the LMR unit should be able to get more technical support from a communications-oriented company like Harris than it has from a conglomerate like Tyco Electronics.

"I think the combination of having the military stuff and the Tyco stuff is pretty compelling," Seybold said.

Vaughan said officials for the Tyco unit are excited about the prospect of being able to leverage the Harris international sales and distribution channels for LMR solutions, noting that he anticipates the combined company will develop a TETRA platform that can be deployed in overseas markets.

Meanwhile, the fact that Harris is a U.S.-based company also will help the unit's ability to make sales in North America, said John Powell, interoperability-committee chairman for the National Public-Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).

"It's going to resolve some issues with some of the states," Powell said. "For example, because Tyco was an offshore company, the state of California was forbidden from buying equipment from them. And there are other states that are that way."

The only aspects of Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems excluded from the deal are the assets and liabilities associated with the state of New York contract for a statewide wireless network (SWN). The state of New York terminated the $2 billion contract in January, but Tyco has filed a lawsuit challenging that decision.

"If there were any real issues with the New York contract blowing up, Harris might not have done what they did quite so quickly," Seybold said. "It's an indication to me that they [Harris officials] looked at it very carefully, and they don't see any long-term issues."

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